Winery to find new customers in North Dakota

By Jeff Smith

A pallet of wine being taken to a truck on Jan. 23 as employees stand nearby celebrating Prairie Berry’s most recent achievement.

Prairie Berry Winery has begun distribution into a third state. Their wine is now being sold in Wyoming, South Dakota and now North Dakota.

After the long process of finding and meeting with distributors there was finally a shipment sent to North Dakota on Jan 23.

Five pallets were sent to Republic National Distributing Company. A great celebration was held just outside of the loading dock as the pallets were being loaded.

The winery originally started in Mobridge, S.D., about 60 miles from the North Dakota border. Matt Keck, co-owner of Prairie Berry, said they practically were in North Dakota when they started so it’s nice that they can finally get the wine there.

“There have been liquor stores and customers asking for years for us to get up there,” Keck said.

Just a month ago there was a discussion with the distributor about the wines. Representatives of the distributor will be going and getting them into stores across North Dakota.

Keck said as far as future expansion they are taking it one step at a time.

“If we do well in North Dakota then maybe we’ll be lucky enough to move on to another state,” Keck said.

He said it’s great to be in the wine business as it is used for celebrations and to assist in creating wonderful moments.

Right now the focus is working on North Dakota and getting more of Prairie Berry’s wine into the hands of North Dakotans.

Prairie Berry Winery’s flagship wine, Red Ass Rhubarb, is among the wines that will be available for purchase in North Dakota. Other wines include Calamity Jane, a Concord grape wine and winner of a Double Gold medal at the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Gold Digger, made from pears, and Wild Bill, a semi-sweet wine made from Catawba grapes.

Keck said the success they have had in Hill City has made everything possible.

The first and foremost way to get people to try the wine is the tasting room.

“That is why we relocated to Hill City. People from all around the country visit Hill City,” Keck said.

Through experiences Prairie Berry is able to provide in the tasting room hundreds and thousands of people every year can familiarize themselves with the wine. When they go home they will be able to recognize the different wines that are sold in liquor stores.

Prairie Berry is 19 years old. The winery moved to Hill City in 2004. The building expansion began in 2012 and was completed in 2015.

“That expansion is what allowed us to increase our production in order to make enough wine to get to North Dakota,” Keck said.

Prairie Berry has been growing and adding staff every year.

The whole process of turning raw agricultural products into wine requires a lot of employees.

“When we first built up here it was just Sandi (Vojta) that was making the wine,” Keck said.

The wine making staff now consists of six to seven people. That is just on the production side.

On the sales side there has been growth too. They are going to be hiring a sales rep that will handle sales in North Dakota and the eastern part of South Dakota.

Events and wine tastings will be happening in North Dakota too.